11/7/03: Okay, I have to confess something: when I originally finished the story, about a week ago, I had it finished as a stand-alone with the ending below. Then, I watched the Matrix: Reloaded and was inspired to write a trilogy. So, I thought I could fill more pages with them trying to get together rather than already together, so I re-wrote the ending. I've decided to post the original ending just because I liked it and I don't think I'll be using it in the sequel.
I'm glad people seemed to like the preview at the end. To zaraky, JT, and everyone else who didn't like that Harry wussed out, here's my logic: Basically, the poor kid just saw Hermione die in his arms only minutes ago, so it was very fresh on his mind. Plus, it was a messy way to die, blood and all, and Harry was always the noble type, as Phineaus would say.
Alternate Final Library Scene
"Er, yeah," Harry said, feeling foolish at being caught staring. "Anyways. Hermione."
"So…how are you?" he asked, clearly chickening out at the last moment.
Hermione chuckled at Harry's obvious discomfort. Little did she suspect that the reason was her. "I'm fine Harry. Nice catch earlier, by the way."
Catch? Ah yes, the Quidditch match. "Thanks. So, anyways, I was hoping to talk to you…"
Hermione gave him a wry smile. "Isn't that what we're doing?"
"Well, yeah, but…I mean talk about something important."
"Sure Harry, anything. What is it?"
"Well…" Harry said, at a loss of where to start. 'Try at the beginning,' suggested Hermione's voice in his head. Harry grinned. "Something happened to me-"
"Oh no! What is it? Voldemort?"
Harry raised his hands, trying to calm her down. "No, nothing like that…nothing bad, at least I don't think so…I'll have to talk with Dumbledore later. Really, it was his fault."
"What happened? What did Dumbledore do?"
Harry looked at her and shook his head. "It's not important. I promise I'll tell you later," he said quickly, interrupting the protest he knew was at the tip of her tongue. Oh, that wonderful tongue, those-
"Sorry. Anyways, some things have happened that made me realize something. Something very important."
Harry hesitated, then reached over and clasped both of Hermione's hands in his own. "Hermione, you've always been there for me ever since our first year. We've gone through so many things together, and you never backed away me; you never let me do things on my own no matter how hard I pushed you away. You've always been by my side, no matter what kind of trouble I've found myself. I've come to rely on you to center me, to anchor me. I know now that I've taken some of that for granted, but anymore." Harry paused a moment, somehow thinking that the last bit sounded familiar.
Hermione took his pause as a chance to speak. "Harry, you know I'll always be there for you no matter what. I'll always be your best friend."
"I know that Hermione, but I don't want that."
Hermione looked taken aback. "You don't…want to be friends?"
Harry shook his head. "I don't…I want to be more, Hermione. I want us to be more than just friends. What I'm trying to say is that…Hermione Granger, I love you."
Harry placed a finger over her wonderful lips. "I know this comes as a bit of a shock. I'm not asking for a response right now, I don't expect you to return my feelings. I just want you to consider it. We've been friends for such a long time that I understand it's hard to think of me of anything other then just a friend. I just want you to consider the possibility of something more. And don't worry, no matter what, no matter what you decide, I'll always be your friend."
Harry smiled at her stunned face and then stood. "I'll see you later at the celebration, okay?" She nodded dumbly and Harry turned towards the exit. Although he wasn't realistically expected a declaration of mutual love, it would have been nice, or at least a smile. Ah well, as it was, things could have gone much worse; at least she hadn't looked horrified at the idea, just shocked. Harry had just reached the exit when her voice called him back.
"Harry, wait." Harry turned and was surprised to find Hermione standing only a few meters away. "I've considered it, Harry," she said softly, looking into his eyes.
"And?" he said, barely a whisper.
Hermione didn't respond. Instead, she reached up with her right hand and gently pulled his head down, where her lips met his own. It was just like he remembered.